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My four-year-old refuses to go to sleep until we do – usually around 11:00 or 12:00 at night – and we have the worst time waking her up in the morning. How can I get her to bed earlier without a fight?
Bedtime procrastination ranks high among childcare complaints of the nineties. A later bedtime often reflects parents' changing lifestyles. The array of excuses preschool children come up with to delay bedtime really reflects a desire to spend more time with mom and dad rather than an unwillingness to go to sleep. We've noticed that the busier and more preoccupied we are during the day, the more our children lobby for quality time at night.
To get your child to sleep earlier and have more couple time for yourselves in the evening, be sure your daughter is tired. Wear her out with exercise late in the afternoon. Arrive at a set bedtime – say 8:00 o'clock – and begin your winding-down ritual an hour beforehand. Using the same routine every night will condition your youngster to know that sleep is expected to follow. Start with a quiet game, followed by a soothing bath and a calming story. Choose a story based on your own childhood or use the child's favorite movie characters: "Pocahontas and John Smith went fishing they caught one fish, two fish, three fish…" sometimes it will take thirty fish to get your child to sleep. (Counting stories work well for us, and fishing stories have been a Sears' family favorite for years!) The key is to make your bedtime ritual so loving and cuddly that your child prefers it to the activities she would do if she stayed awake.
Sometimes a child is reluctant to go to sleep in her own bedroom because it signals the end of the day. If this is the case, parent her to sleep in your bed and move her into her own room when you retire.